Shaun Rankin’s Ormer Mayfair in the Flemings Hotel opened just over a year ago with relatively little fanfare – it wasn’t really until it featured in an episode of MasterChef that it came onto most people’s radars. Rankin hails from Yorkshire but has in the last 18 years established himself in Jersey where the original Ormer gained Michelin stardom within just months of opening. How has the London outpost of his flagship St Helier restaurant fared so far? It’s OK but not quite reaching its full potential yet.
I don’t like to face an onslaught of upselling when I’ve only just arrived and I’ve barely even taken my jacket off
On arrival I was greeted warmly and installed at my booth in the corner (my request for a quiet table was gratefully noted). But things were already moving too fast. The teenage waiter asked if I wanted a glass of Nyetimber, Gusbourne or Ridgeview. I declined and asked for water instead – not because I have anything against English sparkling wines, or anything against enthusiastic waiters, but simply because I wasn’t even breathing yet. It’s nice to be looked after but I don’t like to face an onslaught of upselling when I’ve only just arrived and I’ve barely even taken my jacket off. Most diners need to sit down, look at the menu and take in their surroundings before a barrage of inquisition. Alas, this break-neck pace seemed to be a theme of the whole meal: my food arrived before any wine did, and my main course was served far too quickly after the starter.
The hurried service wasn’t the only thing that perturbed me. The new art deco interior which replaced its garish predecessor somehow feels tired already. There are little lamps on the tables which are positioned at an appropriate height but add no illumination, so it’s mostly the harsh light overhead that fills the room. There are windows but they’re blanked out by opaque blinds. The atmosphere was loud even though the restaurant was far from full – something about hard oak walls combined with a hard floor causes the soundwaves to bounce off them, and this is not easy-going on the ears. Curtains and carpets would help to soften this aural assault.
As for the food, it’s all competently prepared and well-presented but, for me, didn’t impress. Proceedings began with a sea-inspired amuse bouche – a kind of mini samosa containing lobster and sea urchin. It was a nice little thing, if pointless, but the sea ingredients therein were sadly overpowered by superfluous spicing. Rabbit terrine in Parma ham with apricot was served on a bizarre eye-shaped plate like the Big Brother logo: it was a little dry and clunky and had obviously been prepared earlier in the day and left in the fridge. It reminded me of plane food. A shame.
Things improved with the main of pork which was cooked well – it was soft and succulent with a flavoursome jus, served on a bed of bulgur wheat almost like a risotto but without the inherent creaminess that the starch of Arborio rice yields (in my view a risotto base would’ve elevated this dish). It was served with a cross-section of octopus and a smear across the plate. Come on guys, I thought we got over smears in 2015? The meal ended with a standard issue peach soufflé – light, timeless, self-standing… but not outstanding.
The wine list is fair and, at first blush, seemed very decently priced by the glass (mostly under £10) but then I realised they’re all small measures. This is mildly deceptive.
Prima facie, it’s not bad value: for Michelin-level food in Mayfair, £57 for 3 courses, 2 glasses of wine, coffee and service seems a good deal. But when you factor in the unpolished service, the issues with the ambience, the small wine measures, you start to question if it’s really worth it. Perhaps it was just a bad day but overall I was expecting more from a chef patron of Rankin’s calibre.
7-12 Half Moon Street
by J A Smith